Pa. lawmakers weigh plan to make English state’s official language

    Pennsylvania lawmakers are weighing a proposal to make English the state’s official language. A House bill now in committee also would prevent state funds from being used for bilingual publications.


    State Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican, said government should promote things that unite society instead of dividing or segregating people.


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    “Our current policy does that and that’s evidenced by the numerous state and county agencies that promote various levels of different languages. There’s no standard whatsoever,” Perry said.

    “Thirty-one other states actually have English as their official language,” he said. “The financial cost to taxpayers–I just did some quick calculation and think we’re spending between $200 million and $500 million in schools to educate.”

    Perry said his mother refused to teach him her native language because she wanted him to learn English and, he said, “productive and prosperous.”

    Anne O’Callaghan, the CEO of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, has urged the committee not to support the bill.

    “I said to them that this bill was both unnecessary and unwise,” she said. “I felt it was unnecessary because English is widely embraced across Pennsylvania … and I think it’s unwise because it sends a powerful signal to thousands of international students, visitors and businesspeople who are deciding where to invest their talent and their money.”

    A representative from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association said the bill could prevent him from interacting with older members of the community by speaking Mandarin or Cantonese when acting as an official member of the Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs.

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